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New York Times Magazine | November 4, 2007

Remembrance of Things Cast

By Pilar Viladas

The announcement early last year that Ian Schrager was building 40 Bond, a condominium project in downtown Manhattan, with the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron set the design world abuzz. It wasn’t the first condo to be designed by a star architecture firm, and it won’t be the last, but 40 Bond’s construction site became a destination for even jaded New Yorkers.

Well, it’s done now, and unlike so many apartment projects that look good on paper but not in reality, 40 Bond doesn’t disappoint. Its facade — a grid of giant greenish-glass “mullions,” overlaid on concrete structural columns that are wrapped in mirror-finished stainless steel — is the architects’ muscular, modern rendition of the 19th-century cast-iron buildings that are common to the neighborhood, an idea that Schrager says he found “irresistible.” It is also delicate, reflecting the changes in light and weather. The combination of the glass and the polished metal beneath, according to Ascan Mergenthaler, a partner in Herzog & de Meuron, can “make the structure look as if it’s dissolving.” (The rear facade features the same grid rendered in copper.)

In contrast to this grid, the architects designed an expressionistic cast-aluminum gate for the building and its five ground-floor town houses. The gate’s exuberant curlicues — a nod to traditional wrought-iron motifs — look like something Gaudi might have imagined, but they are derived from contemporary graffiti tags, hybridized by computer. This pattern is repeated in the stainless-steel panels that frame the building’s entrance (and those of the town houses) and on the walls of wood and Corian that line its tall, narrow lobby. Mergenthaler says that continuing the pattern is a practical move — it hides the seams between panels and conceals wear and tear — although its visual and textural punch is quite a dividend.

Inside the apartments, dark-green-framed windows echo the rhythm of the exterior, as they do in loft buildings. “It’s one of the few new buildings where the facade is really part of the interior,” says Anda Andrei, the architect who is Schrager’s design director and who worked with Herzog & de Meuron on the floor plans and interiors. These include wide-plank, richly toned Austrian smoked oak floors and cabinets in the kitchens and bathrooms, as well as sleek, glass-enclosed Corian “wet rooms” (incorporating the shower and tub) in the master bathrooms. Even at prices ranging from around $3 million for a one-bedroom apartment to $10 million for a town house, only three units remain unsold at this writing. Schrager himself will occupy the three-story, 8,500-square-foot penthouse (with a 4,000-square-foot roof terrace). It is being designed by John Pawson, the British architect known for his minimalist approach, but Schrager swears that the interiors “won’t be minimalist.” Nor should they be; 40 Bond is anything but.